I saw a remarkable film recently on Netflix. Jiro Dreams of Sushi is famous for being snubbed by the Oscars (I couldn’t believe it myself). It’s a great film–the only possible complaint I could make would the difficult-to-read (for us old-timers) white subtitles. But, the subject matter is interesting enough to cause me to watch the entire film, even if I really had to work at it.
In this day and age, with Hollywood producing garbage at an unprecedented rate, that’s something.
The film is, at its heart, about one man who dedicates himself to his craft. Jiro Ono became a celebrity chef because the worked steadily for a lifetime improving his work. That’s the secret. At the age of 84, he was still seeking improvement. I was very impressed by this. It reminds me of my own feeble efforts to improve, and the way that our culture, here in the west, treats this kind of goal.
As a rule, model builders tend to be grumpy old men, and furthermore, politically conservative grumpy old men. We’re usually scandalized by change–mostly because that’s what old-timers do. I’m no exception to this rule. I’m very skeptical about smart phones, for example. I owned one, but I got so fed-up with the way the thing was trying to take over my life that I smashed it good. (I’m not endorsing that as a generalized problem-solving-method, by the way). But, the phone that is smarter than you are is the wave of the future. So I’m not going to win that debate with the world at large. But, within the micro-world of plastic kits, I can feel a kind of political correctness descending–and it says that “talent is all–and build comfortable.”
Talent and comfort are important, but so is incremental improvement. These things go hand-in-hand, so to speak. As a “beginner” I sought to improve. Always make the next one better. But as an adult and an “experienced modeler” I began to fall into a rut. I started to let myself believe that really good modelers are born, not made (“talent is all”) and I just wasn’t talented. I have limitations. I can’t do it.
Furthermore, shouldn’t a hobby (“hey, it’s a hobby”) be about fun? And doesn’t fun relate to comfort? I mean, how can you have fun if you’re suffering?
So I plopped down in my comfort zone, airbrush in hand, sipped a beer and forgot about improvement.
Then came the great change. I got rid of the airbrush and was no longer in my comfort zone. I could no longer depend upon technology and “knack” to get it done. I would have to work at it. Since then, I’ve set aside my opinions on talent and comfort and went back to hard work and achievement. I get the results that I get, using only a paint brush, never (okay, very rarely) masking and using only “healthier” alternative products instead of toxic ones, because I work at it. I take the time to ponder a problem and invent a solution. I imagine new ways to solve old problems, experiment with them, determine if they will work, and then I apply what I have learned to my model building.
My work is not, and never will be, perfect. I’m not seeking perfection. I’m seeking to do better, by my own standards, in a way that I can actually see. Talent, comfort and perfection have nothing to do with it. It’s all about doing this one little thing better this time, and asking myself if it isn’t better, then what is it about me that’s getting in the way. Am I really at fault in some way? Or do I need to rethink my original goal? Those are important questions that we should ask ourselves about everything we do, in my opinion.